Ask the Taxi drivers in Dubai, and 7 out of 10 will swear by the comfort and reliability of a Camry that see them past half a million km. Having built this larger-than-life reputation for reliability across six generations and for the ultimate resale value in this part of the world, the Camry 2012 takes a new avatar in its 7th generation.
A four-cylinder Camry with a six-cylinder burble. A 2.5L Camry that can do 0-100 in less than 9 sec. A Camry that doesn’t budge while going about bends and roundabouts with a steering prowess that borders on pleasurable. Pleasurable? Is it a Camry we are talking about here? Wasn’t the P word supposed to be ‘Practical’? I guess this is exactly why Al Futtaim chose the Dubai Autodrome to launch the 2012 Camry with even a mini Autocross of sorts. An unconventional venue for an unconventional Camry! The car might not be a GT-R or Quattro, but it holds its place well, the way it gripped the tarmac during hard braking and swift swerves.
Toyota has pitched their hopes and prices higher than usual this time around. Keeping with the growing trend, the new Camry 2012 has been redesigned to claim a place in the union of the sporty and luxury subsets.
What transpires on the tarmac needn’t get translated into a sturdy drive on the road. I was hell-bent on putting to test its audacity to claim an all-new sportiness – The 2012 Camry even has a manual S mode for the first time. Throwing it around bends, going far from easy at roundabouts, pumping the pedal almost in a drag race manner – yet the calm of the Camry remained. Most importantly, I ended up in the lane I was supposed to after each of these tricky maneuvers. With the slightest of wheel spin, the Camry 2012 took off from standstill to cross the 100 mark in 9.04 seconds. Not bad at all, but I should admit that the 6-speed automatic isn’t as fast as it sounds. Throttle out on the S mode and the initial velocity gets more appealing.
New aerodynamics and a very capable electrical steering – with just enough play that gets tighter with the drive – make handling effortless and you guessed it, kind of sporty. There was never a shortage of power felt at any phase of the drive, with excellent uptakes and passing acceleration. The new 2.5L engine gives out 15% more power at 178 hp and improves torque by 8% to 230 Nm. All Camry models are equipped with ABS and Brake Assist, while SE plus enjoys vehicle stability and traction control.
A large quantum of that heady stuff called confidence can send even a 7th generation brand teetering at some point. As for the Camry, it was furthered by a rather windy day. I could feel the tug of war going on between the two, at higher speeds. As for the new sport version, it still delivers a rather bumpy ride with its firmer suspensions.
While the design uplift on the front grille and headlamps as well as the skirting in front and the lip spoiler give it a sporty outfit, what this Camry wants to really show off is what’s under its skin.
Even the dashboard announces the new Camry’s intention of deserving the extra bucks it’s asking for. Impressive real stitching on the leather and the strips of wood that hasn’t been overdone, sure feel premium.
Cabin and controls
The current tendency to button up the console till the neck has been resisted in the Camry 2012. Yet, the dash has more buttons and controls than any Camry ever had, including dual zone climate control, navigation, smart media and more, accessible through a combination of rotary knobs and a touch-screen!
But I found the control knobs at the farther end placed too far for easy access during a drive. Similarly the drive info button still holds on to its spot within the instrument panel making it harder for an on-drive check on speed average or fuel reach.
The instrument panel gets a new feature – a fuel efficiency meter – while the temperature gauge shrinks to a graphic strip. The emphasis on the eco drive and the 11% drop in fuel usage is translated into a whole dissertation in graphs on the touch screen as well – complicated!
The Camry SE + that we took out on the long drive comes loaded with every practical comfort from parking assistance and rear view camera to navigation (this I hope will be further simplified in 2013) and a moon roof as well.
The Family Car
A Camry with a sporty side can only be a Christmas bonus and not the stuff you live by. So, the brand daren’t take away the practicality and comfort of its mainstream bulwark. Hence the seats have been spared of an excessively sporty feel and the legroom is actually 46 mm more than the previous model, despite flaunting a more compact and aerodynamic exterior design.
The Camry is almost unbeatable in the attention to having ‘a place for everything’. Storage is generously and systematically provided for cups, sunglasses, CDs, mobiles and more, apart from having a boot that does well, despite being awkwardly dented by the wheel wells.
Starting from AED 88000 for the Camry S and AED 93,000 for the SE, the prices go up to 101,000 for the SE Plus and 102,000 for the Sport version. The base version of Dubai Taxi fame won’t have much of the new sharp looks, so as to allow individual owners of the higher versions a premium signature for the extra they dish out – makes sense.
The Camry 2012 will immensely please its loyalists with its move from the functional to the fashionable and impress skeptics in a way it has not done before: with a well-handled drive.
Upside: More space and legroom, Responsive steering, Energetic acceleration, Sporty façade, Premium dashboard
Flipside: Control panel could be more driver friendly, Wind pull at high speeds, Sport version ride somewhat bumpy, Manual mode doesn’t feel sporty enough from third shift
Drive Courtesy: Al Futtaim Motors
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy